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Unfathomable! Session 0

 Of the 8 people I invited to my new Operation Unfathomable campaign, I was surprised to have landed 7 of them. We got together for character generation. 

We made standard 5e characters with a few exceptions:

  • The playable lineages are humans, wooly neanderthals, and citizen liches (although I was open to negotiating exceptions). Details in the Player's Packet.
  • I offered the players the option of Walking The Iron Path As Crom Intended: roll your ability scores in order and start with a magic item. (Only one player took me up on this, and received the Sword of Demolition.)

I asked a few questions to help flush out the characters and the world:

  • What is your character goal?
  • What is your player goal?
  • What is a secret your character keeps?
  • What is a secret kept from your character?
  • What is a place in the campaign world that is significant to your character?
  • Who is a person that is significant to your character, whether friend or antagonist?

I think that's a pretty good, relatively succinct, list of questions to get players who don't tend to think about backstory to generate some ideas, and to get players who think too much about backstory to narrow them down. Several folks had trouble distinguishing between character and player goals, which was fine. We then workshopped connections between party members until we had a group that (A) had a reason to stick together, and (B) had motivations to go into the Underworld beyond the forthcoming plot hook.

The party consists of:

  • Brother Ded, a stoner monk who likes to talk a big, under-informed game about bringing down The Man. Has an undisclosed connection to the forces of Chaos.
  • Mort, a research-minded fighter and fugitive from Imperial justice. Stole a big magic sword, and is on the lookout for the next big score.
  • Greta, a baby-eating hag-turned-Citizen Lich who is eager to make a deal with any willing godling to get her full powers back.
  • Ulther, a ranger and artifact smuggler, looking for his Uncle Heinrich who disappeared on an expedition into the Odious Uplands.
  • Zinee, a wooly neanderthal druid/cosmetologist.
  • Toljin, a magical boy sold off to pirates, hoping to track down the Dread Pirate Goddard and learn what happened to his family.
  • Doloth, a barbarian shaman who was unwillingly turned into a Citizen Lich by a wizard trying to improve the lichification process. Desperately wants to regain his humanity, and that of his daughter who became a full lich.

As mentioned in the previous post, I chose 5e as the ruleset in order to have more durable characters who would survive long enough to see the narrative through (and to meet the expectations of this particular group). I also decided to make a little introductory murder mystery for them to solve before getting conscripted into the Underworld expedition, just to get them level 2 and pack a few more hit points on them.

Brother Ded


At 9:30, right was we might have started wrapping up, the power went out, leaving us in pitch darkness. I took advantage of the moment and launched into stentorian oration mode: 

You adventurers with fire in your bellies and madness in your eyes—behold the Underworld in all its bewildering majesty!

 Here titanic Chaos godlings and their unsavory cults make ceaseless war upon one another! Here nightmares stalk the darkness! Here the echoes of a doomed expedition still whisper through the caverns, their heroes' bones gnawed clean, their treasures scattered.

 Do your scalps prickle with the thrill of plunder, you scoundrels? Can your wits unravel riddles etched upon the silent monuments of aeons past? Can your skulls withstand the cosmic conundrums of the Chthonic Deeps?

 Step forward, you dogs of destiny, and carve your names upon the Devil’s own backside with a broken dagger and a lunatic grin as you embark up this foray into damnation, this invitation to anomaly, this… Operation Unfathomable!

As we lit candles and read character sheets by phone-light, the PCs did standard meet-and-greet things in the Beer Hall at Fort Enterprise and asked questions about the setting of Adola the barmaid, who brought them free Jolly Lichen Ale and boiled skunk cabbage.

The blaring of horns grabbed everyones attention, and they saw guards changing the Monster Attack Sign from yellow to red and pulling the Fort's gates shut. As guards mounted the palisade to fend off Koloko the 35' tall man-ape, the civilians were rounded up in the center of the Fort and told to ready their weapons and await orders. Koloko's attack petered out after he'd vented enough of his fury and noticed that he was stuck all over with arrows and spears. 

As the man-ape wandered off and the guards began to relax, a fight broke out in the crowd of civilians that involved a lot of shoving and yelling. Adola the friendly NPC was knocked to the ground, covered in blood, with a stiletto in her hands and a dead laborer named Two Bushels in the sand next to her. Guards, dismounting the palisade saw the ruckus and started to haul Adola away as she looked in disbelief at the knife in her hands. Looking plaintively to the PCs she cried, "I didn't do nothing bad! Is he hurt? Tell 'em I didn't do nothing wrong! Is this that system of oppression thing you're always talking about? Am I being systemly oppressed?"

 And that's where we ended the session. Next week: will the PCs care to bother finding the real murderer?

Previous Post: New Campaign Time! Unfathomable!


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